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Celebrities' refusal to associate with 2016 mental health initiative shows the strides we've since made

‘You don’t talk about it.’

CW: Mental health stigma

THESE DAYS IT seems there is no shortage of high-profile individuals willing to share their story of mental health struggles – whether via mainstream or social media – all in an effort to lift the stigma that has existed around the subject.

This wasn’t always the case, however.

As an adolescent in the early noughties, I recall little to no conversation which connected the world of celebrity with the issue of mental health. While drug and alcohol dependency issues were often discussed, anxiety, depression and bipolar had yet to find a place in daily discourse.

As such, my first clear memory of a link between mental health and celebrity culture was Britney Spears’ public breakdown in 2007. However, if anyone is familiar with this period, they’ll likely remember that the narrative was less than sympathetic.

Slowly but surely, as the years went on, people in the public eye began to speak up and share their stories, but it came in drips rather than torrents.

Indeed, during a public appearance this week, Prince William revealed that as recently as three years ago, a number of celebrities refused his offer to promote the Heads Together mental health initiative which was created by himself, his wife Kate Middleton and his brother, Prince Harry.

William, Kate and Harry launch Heads Together mental health campaign Source: Yui Mok

Addressing the Davos World Economic Forum, the 36-year-old royal said ‘a lot’ of celebrities were approached, but none wanted to be associated with the subject.

Again, this was as recently as 2016.

Thankfully, this seems a far cry from the current dialogue where high-profile individuals constantly encourage candour by discussing their own journeys, and urging their fans and followers do the same.

From Chrissy Teigen, Demi Lovato and Sarah Hyland to Ryan Reynolds, Pete Davidson and Zayn Malik, the tide has been changing in small ways in recent years.

This change hasn’t gone unnoticed, with Prince William surmising that the inclination to hide illness and struggles is no longer considered the favourable option by the younger generation.

A whole generation inherited [this way of coping]. This was the way you deal with your problems: you don’t talk about it. 

“A new generation knows that’s not normal,” he stressed yesterday.

And long may it continue.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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